Security along Hudson River top of mind of stakeholder

Dutchess County Sheriff's Office Marine Units patrol the Hudson River.

POUGHKEEPSIE – More than 80 members of law enforcement, including the US Coast Guard (USCG), gathered in Poughkeepsie Wednesday with other stakeholders to discuss river security as part of the quarterly meeting of the American Maritime Security Committee (AMSC) for Sector New York. 

Captain Zeita Merchant

The security committee was established in 2002 to identify risks and evaluate port security as part of the federal Maritime Transportation Security Act.

The event brought law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction on the Hudson River between the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge and the Troy-US Lock in Troy to Poughkeepsie for updates on port security in the US Coast Guard Sector New York coverage area.  They were joined by stakeholders from the private sector such as the petroleum terminals along the river.

Coast Guard Captain Zeita Merchant, sector commander and captain of the Port for the NY/NJ Port, oversees the largest sector on the east coast and is responsible for the safety and security of the nation’s third-largest port.

She said all the attendees play a vital role in the safety and security of the Hudson River.

“They are a force multiplier to this federal entity that ensures the safety and security from a maritime perspective of this region that is responsible for millions of dollars to, not only this region, but beyond in the northeast,” she said.

The importance of the collaboration was echoed by Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa.  

Noting that the Coast Guard is the gatekeeper of the river, he said their assistance with the AMSC prevents catastrophic events in the region. “This partnership is very important.  More importantly, not only does the Coast Guard bring manpower, but they bring resources and grant money.”

Dutchess County Sheriff Lieutenant Shawn Castano has served on his department’s maritime unit for several years and said the quarterly meetings of the AMSC are vital.  “We work diligently to keep the Hudson River within our jurisdiction safe for everyone, but this group as a whole keeps the entire region safe,” he said. “The Coast Guard is a great partner.  They break the ice to allow commerce to move during the winter, assist local agencies with search & rescue operations, and they provide an added layer of security to the Hudson Valley.”

Captain Merchant directs all Coast Guard missions in the Port of New York and New Jersey. She is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of one of the nation’s busiest and most economically important port complexes. Sector New York’s area of responsibility spans over 6,000 square miles from 200 miles offshore and inland to Albany and includes facilities and waterways moving hundreds of billions of dollars in cargo and tens of millions of passengers annually.